How to Get a Girl Pregnant, Karleen Pendleton-Jiménez, 167 pgs, Tightrope Books, tightropebooks.com, $19.95
In the excellent 2011 anthology Persistencies: All Ways Butch and Femme, Trent University professor Karleen Pendleton-Jimenez contributed an essay about what it means to be pregnant. In any other realm, this might be a fairly run-of-the-mill topic, but for Pendleton-Jiménez, who identifies as a butch lesbian, carrying a baby involved a re-shuffling of ideas (both hers and other people’s) about gender, self-perception and womanhood. It’s a beautiful, challenging piece, and its ideas have been expanded upon in Pendleton-Jiménez’s book How to Get a Girl Pregnant, which serves as a bit of a prologue tracing her path towards insemination.
The book shows that this was a very long journey indeed, spanning years, emails upon emails, mind-bogglingly expensive vials of sperm and multiple visits to the fertility doctors. Pendleton- Jiménez’s biography would make a compelling narrative in its own right; in addition to the story of her pregnancy, we are given insights into her Chicana background, her travels and interactions with friends, allies and academics, and, most poignantly, we learn about her close and loving relationship with her mother, whose death inspired her to become a mom herself.
Pendleton-Jiménez is a natural storyteller, so you can’t help but become as invested in her quest as she is. We cringe as she visits the fertility clinic yet again for the invasive, clinical and sometimes painful insemination procedures, feel elation when she connects with supportive male donors online, and hold our collective breath as she visits nightclubs (with her partner in one instance) in a last-ditch attempt to pick up a man who might unwittingly help her get pregnant. This book provides an essential sense of perspective to ideas about motherhood and queer identity. It’s honest, brave and beautiful and everyone should read it. (Alison Lang)